The Seven Seas, the Oceans blue, the Great Lakes and the raging rivers; people all over the world make a fuss over the giant, mysterious bodies of water that cover the best part of the world’s surface. Let’s take rivers for example. They are used for trade, recreation and explorative purposes, studied in primary schools and geological/environmental institutes alike. Yes indeed, rivers are well-known, well-respected and widely acknowledged as an intrinsic part of man’s way of life. But what about the world’s lesser known rivers? They get little more press than, say, a puddle but they are often more complex and impressive than our everyday terrestrial rivers. Check out the world’s top five unsung rivers below:

Atmospheric Rivers

We are all familiar with the winding ribbons of water that carve their way through landscapes but these terrestrial rivers have parallel counterparts way up in the atmosphere. These atmospheric rivers are of an incredible size and occur all around the globe, with studies into them being focused over the UK and California. According to David Lavers of the University of Reading and New Scientist these up-in-the-air rivers wind their way through our skies and patterns of their presence can be linked to some of the UK’s worst floods since the 1970s.


Of course, we’re all familiar with the flood threats from the ground level rivers we’re used to; the ones that cause damage to homes and businesses far and wide, requiring the omnipresence of emergency services throughout the ordeal and help from countless insurance companies and flood restoration companies for months afterwards. Atmospheric rivers on the other hand are a less familiar notion. They too are a fact of nature and an intrinsic part of our planet’s environment but what do we actually know about them?

Well, they are ribbons of water that move across mid-latitudes and they are said to be a minimum of 2000 kilometres in length and several hundreds of kilometres in width. Their considerable size and their location in the windy troposphere allow them to carry as much water as the Amazon River, at great speed with the troposphere winds often being faster than 12.5 metres per second.

With such size and speed as well as considerable power over the weather down here, atmospheric rivers are certainly a key feature of our planet’s mechanism and something we would do well to get to know better.

Magma/Lava Rivers

Fire (or hot, fiery molten rock) is not something we would ordinarily associate with a river, a river being something generally accepted as a flowing body of cool, fresh water. However, the globe is covered in rivers of molten rock – both below and above the earth’s surface. This molten rock is known as magma. Magma is best described as a nasty cocktail of molten and semi-molten rock, volatiles and toxic solids found deep down in the bowels of the Earth. It develops in the mantle or the crust and rises to the surface when it becomes less dense than the rock surrounding it. As the magma rises to the surface it pools in magma chambers. Once here, the magma either cools down, solidifying and turning into igneous rock or it stews just below the surface until the pressure builds and it makes its big entrance, exploding via a volcano.


This dramatic explosion of magma is what we expect but the majority of magma seeps to the surface in less spectacular fashion, breaking through the earth’s surface and continuing its journey in a network of unimaginably red hot rivers. These rivers of magma are commonplace in seismic hotspots like Hawaii, becoming as much a part of the landscape as sandy beaches and deep blue waters. Stunning as they may be, they are however less appealing to dip your toes in than the traditional rivers of water we’re accustomed to.

Rivers of Flowers

A different type of river is the non-liquid kind. Whilst atmospheric and magma rivers aren’t exactly traditional as far as rivers are go, they are at least liquid. However, rivers need not be flowing. Thanks to some imaginative landscape design and some very patient planting, there are stunning rivers of flowers dotted around landscaped grounds and wild clip_image006trails all over the globe. The principle is a basic one; if a river doesn’t exist in a garden, forest or other outdoor space then one can be made using different flowers. These rivers are a special hybrid of nature and creativity. There is flexibility with colours, meaning rivers can be a traditional blue hue or a less conventional but equally beautiful red, yellow, white or pink. The design’s effectiveness relies principally on its foundation of a winding “river”; a meandering floral path of one colour weaving its way through the designated area, bordered on either side by “banks” of flowers in a different (or several different) colour(s).

One of Europe’s most popular examples of a River of Flowers is Holland’s Bloemen Route in Keukenhof. They play with colours but their creative licence does not compromise how stunning the feature looks. These rivers of flowers come in all shapes and sizes, gracing private gardens and park attractions alike. A fantastic twist on the traditional river and one that smells as sweet as it looks!

Glacial Rivers

Glaciers; huge bodies of ice we find at both poles and atop mountains. These stunning natural features are the remnants of our planet’s Ice Age past. Even after thousands of years of melting, their mammoth sizes give us a glimpse into the true scale and force of nature. We tend to think of glaciers as solid bodies of ice, immovable and un-melting. However, the majority of glaciers – particularly those that cling to the tops of mountains – are in fact colossal frozen rivers.


Glaciers can melt gradually but because of their cold locations they are often topped up every winter when packed snow freezes and becomes part of the glacier itself. This pack-and-freeze process is common in regions like the Arctic Circle, both Poles and consistently cold locations but what’s interesting is that the frozen-solid glacier is not still. Glaciers are effectively rivers made of solid ice and being so, they are incredibly heavy. Combine this weight with the usual location on downhill slopes and you get perfect conditions for the ice patches – which can range from the size of a football pitch to being hundreds of miles long – to slowly move their way downhill. Two particularly stunning examples of these ever-moving ice rivers are the Valdez Glacier and the Stephens Glacier, both in Alaska and both resembling rapids frozen in time.

Joan Rivers


Ok, so this one is mostly just for fun – but she is still a River(s)!

Joan Alexandra Molinsky, better known and well-loved as Joan Rivers, was born in 1933. A New Yorker through and through, Rivers has an uncannily hilarious and popular ability to poke fun at herself and at other Hollywood A-Listers – a task she takes seriously and does to great comic effect.

A veteran performer, Rivers has been on the scene since the 1950s and she is known for being a comedienne, a writer, a film director, an actress and a TV personality. With plenty of success in her past (and most likely in her future), Rivers has made a name for herself in entertainment thanks to her larger-than-life personality on shows such as The Tonight Show, The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers and Fashion Police. She has also made her mark in the jewellery industry with her The Joan Rivers Collection of costume jewellery.  

As well as her career successes which include a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, twice-married Joan is famed for her excessive cosmetic surgery which appears to have frozen the 80+ year old in time (much like the glacial rivers discussed above – must be a river thing!).  Rivers isn’t ashamed of her nips and tucks though, she flaunts them with pride along with her bold statements and big personality. Yes, Joan Rivers is just as formidable – if not more so – as any raging river out there.

So there you have it – the incognito kings of the river world. Can you think of any more rivers? Or maybe your favourite is already listed above?